“Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM” (John 8:58). There we have it. St. Gregory commenting on this verse writes, “Our Savior mildly draws them away from their carnal view, to the contemplation of His Divinity” (Hom. xviii in Evang.). The truth has been spoken, and it is this truth that unbelievers use as an accusation.
When the accusers bring Jesus before Pontius Pilate and demand the death penalty, the Roman procurator requires an accusation. They respond, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (John 19:7).
Jesus had indeed made Himself known. He made Himself known through His works. These alone pointed to His Divine origin, as when He forgave sin or raised the dead to life. However, the response was unbelief and rejection. St. John comments, “Although he had performed so many signs in their presence they did not believe in him” (John 12:37). The signs did not bring the crowd to faith, and the reference to His Divinity, “before Abraham came to be, I AM,” became the accusation against Him.
One of the great ironies of the Gospel is that we hear a truth confirmed in an accusation. The Gospel of St. John records it this way: “The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him. Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God” (John 10:31-33). In fact, He is not “making” Himself anything. He is.